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The Real Enid Blyton (Paperback)

Military > Biographies P&S History > By Century > 20th Century P&S History > Literary Figures P&S History > Social History Women of History

By Nadia Cohen
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 168
Illustrations: 32 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399077446
Published: 9th December 2022

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She is the most prolific children’s author in history, but Enid Blyton is also the most controversial. A remarkable woman who wrote hundreds of books in a career spanning forty years, even her razor sharp mind could never have predicted her enormous global audience. Now, fifty years after her death, Enid remains a phenomenon, with sales outstripping every rival.

Parents and teachers lobbied against Enid’s books, complaining they were simplistic, repetitive and littered with sexist and snobbish undertones. Blatant racist slurs were particularly shockingly; foreign and working class characters were treated with a distain that horrifies modern readers. But regardless of the criticism, Enid worked until she could not physically write another word, famously producing thousands of words a day hunched over her manual typewriter.

She imaged a more innocent world, where children roamed unsupervised, and problems were solved with midnight feasts or glorious picnics with lashings of ginger beer. Smugglers, thieves, spies and kidnappers were thwarted by fearless gangs who easily outwitted the police, while popular schoolgirls scored winning goals in nail-biting lacrosse matches.

Enid carefully crafted her public image to ensure her fans only knew of this sunny persona, but behind the scenes, she weaved elaborate stories to conceal infidelities, betrayals and unconventional friendships, lied about her childhood and never fully recovered from her parent’s marriage collapsing. She grew up convinced that her beloved father abandoned her for someone he loved more, and few could ever measure up to her impossible standards.

A complex and immature woman, Enid was plagued by insecurities and haunted by a dark past. She was prone to bursts of furious temper, yet was a shrewd businesswoman years ahead of her time. She may not have been particularly likeable, and her stories infuriatingly unimaginative, but she left a vast literary legacy to generations of children.

Article: Naked tennis, boozing and affairs with both sexes: the real Enid Blyton uncovered

The Independent

"The Real Enid Blyton" is a fascinating biography that explores the life of one of the most popular children's authors of all time. Nadia Cohen delves into Enid Blyton's personal life, examining her relationships with her family, friends, and colleagues, and providing a glimpse into the woman behind the books.

One of the strengths of the book is its focus on Blyton's writing process. Cohen examines Blyton's inspirations, from her childhood memories to her travels and experiences, and how she translated those into her stories. The book also provides insights into Blyton's work ethic and her dedication to her craft, making it a valuable read for aspiring writers.

"The Real Enid Blyton" also sheds light on some of the controversies surrounding the author, such as accusations of racism and sexism in her books. Cohen explores these issues in-depth and provides a nuanced view of Blyton's work and legacy.

Here is a quote from the book that captures its essence:

"Enid Blyton's books were not always perfect, but they were a reflection of their time, and they provided children with a sense of wonder and adventure."

It is an informative and engaging read for both children and adults. Overall, it is a must-read for anyone interested in the life and work of this well-known author

NetGalley, Ganesh Subramanian

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I loved Enid Blyton’s books as a child and they definitely developed my love of reading. This book was a great insight into the woman behind the books. A great read that I really enjoyed!

NetGalley, Sinead Mc

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

As a child, I devoured all her books, I even just bought a collection of Mallory Towers for my granddaughter.
This book was detailed and it kept my interest.
There were a few surprises such as her interaction with her own children.
Overall, it was interesting, detailed and a great insight into the life of this brilliant but complex woman.

NetGalley, Angela Holden Hunt

When someone is described as being a personality with as many layers as an onion that sums up Enid Blyton for me. She was a very complex woman right from childhood - I loved her as an author and I have fond memories of having midnight feasts when I was a young girl. I always had one of her books in my hand and even read the Mallory Towers and St Clare's books when I was in my 30's - However I must remember that watching a series about Mallory Towers didn't even come close to how it was in my imagination.

This was an advance copy which I enjoyed reading and it gave me an insight into my first author that I got so much joy from reading her books.

NetGalley, Sylvia Vicary

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was a fantastic book. I just loved learning about Enid Blyton's life. The book was extremely interesting and held my attention throughout. There was a tiny bit of repetition but this didn't affect my reading experience. I just found it fascinating reading. I thought that the author did an excellent job of providing a full history with some brilliant pictures. You could tell that the author knew the subject well and that the book was well-researched. As there were plenty of sources and references used. I loved reading about Enid's involvement with her child readers. I found it quite shocking learning about her relationship with her own children. It was amazing learning about her speed at writing books. As a child I loved her books especially bimbo and topsy. The author also looks at the issues around her language and changing times. Making Blyton seem like she had hatred for certain people. I really couldn't put this book down and had to binge-read it. I definitely recommend reading this book if like me you loved her books.

Only the highest of praise goes out to the author and publishers for bringing us this extremely interesting book.

NetGalley, LADY Reading365

Having read some of Enid Blyton's books I was keen to read this one. I found it to be a real eye-opener. It was so surprising that despite producing many books over the years that captured the imagination of children across the world that she wasn't very warm toward her own children. I also found her approach to personal relationships interesting, cutting people out when she felt she had no further use for them. There is so much here that I didn't know. An immensely fascinating read which I'm extremely grateful to NetGalley and the publisher for for providing me with this review copy.

NetGalley, Karl Wardlaw

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

As a child I loved the stories of Enid Blyton so I would often be at the library excitedly handing over my library ticket to get the next book in the series of the Famous Five and the Secret Seven. Her books held such a magical inspiration for me so I was very much looking forward to reading her biography and it has not disappointed at all. It was extremely fascinating as there was so much more she achieved throughout her life and I had no idea about her charitable enterprises.
I really enjoyed this and felt that it was sensitively written.

NetGalley, T B

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I greedily devoured the stories of Enid Blyton as a child, one of the most prolific writers ever. I loved The Girls of St Clares, the Malory Towers series, the Famous Five and the Secret Seven. Her works contributed towards me becoming a child bookworm more so than any other writer and this biography was eye-opening, enlightening, informational and an indulgent, nostalgic journey of sentimentality. Fascinating!

NetGalley, Bridget East

She is the most prolific children’s author in history, but Enid Blyton is also the most controversial. A remarkable woman who wrote hundreds of books in a career spanning forty years, even her razor sharp mind could never have predicted her enormous global audience. Now, fifty years after her death, Enid remains a phenomenon, with sales outstripping every rival.

Parents and teachers lobbied against Enid’s books, complaining they were simplistic, repetitive and littered with sexist and snobbish undertones. Blatant racist slurs were particularly shockingly; foreign and working class characters were treated with a distain that horrifies modern readers. But regardless of the criticism, Enid worked until she could not physically write another word, famously producing thousands of words a day hunched over her manual typewriter.

She imaged a more innocent world, where children roamed unsupervised, and problems were solved with midnight feasts or glorious picnics with lashings of ginger beer. Smugglers, thieves, spies and kidnappers were thwarted by fearless gangs who easily outwitted the police, while popular schoolgirls scored winning goals in nail-biting lacrosse matches.

Enid carefully crafted her public image to ensure her fans only knew of this sunny persona, but behind the scenes, she weaved elaborate stories to conceal infidelities, betrayals and unconventional friendships, lied about her childhood and never fully recovered from her parent’s marriage collapsing. She grew up convinced that her beloved father abandoned her for someone he loved more, and few could ever measure up to her impossible standards.

A complex and immature woman, Enid was plagued by insecurities and haunted by a dark past. She was prone to bursts of furious temper, yet was a shrewd businesswoman years ahead of her time. She may not have been particularly likeable, and her stories infuriatingly unimaginative, but she left a vast literary legacy to generations of children.

Insightful book well researched into an author I adored as a child and still read her books as an adult.

NetGalley, Michelle Coates

Like many children I adored the stories of Enid Blyton, one of the most prolific writers ever. I loved The Faraway Tree and then the schoolgirls of St Clares. Not to mention the Famous Five. I was aware, even at a young age, that teachers and academics looked down on Blyton.

Over the years many of her books have been rewritten or even cancelled because some of the content is no longer suited to our times. But she is still a publishing phenomenon.

I was interested to learn more about the woman. Traumatized in childhood when her beloved father left his wife and family, Enid was a rebel and early feminist who refused to take on domestic chores when her brothers didn't have to do them.

Her sunny stories and happy endings belied a complex life of infidelities and unconventional friendships. She was sometimes cruel and callous towards her family and friends as a defensive mechanism.

Enid was a successful businesswoman, ahead of her time. She wrote books until she could not physically write another word, famously producing thousands of words a day hunched over her manual typewriter.

NetGalley, Gail Hanlon

I really enjoyed this.
Although I've read loads of her books, I can honestly say this was a learning experience for me
Really well researched.
loved it .

NetGalley, Maria Martignetti

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is one book that should have been written so long ago, but fortunately, and talented and in-depth researcher took this one on.

NetGalley, Mike Michelsen

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

My early childhood (in the 1970s) was spent in a small Cornish village, where I was allowed to roam amongst disused tin mines, slate quarries, and copper and arsenic mines. Bad weather was made bearable by a steady flow of Enid Blyton books, with settings not unlike where I lived.
This new biography is written with skill and integrity by an author experienced in some of the darker aspects of children's fiction and its authors. The books are reappraised in the context of the time and Enid's remarkable output of nearly 800 published books acknowledged. Despite a critical backlash her books still sell at the rate of one a minute in England alone. A must-read for all lovers of Blyton and her characters.

NetGalley, Robin Price

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Of course this title grabbed my attention because as a child I read and reread many of Enid Blyton's books. I don't remember details of the books, but I remember loving them so much, that over 30 years later, I wanted to read them again. I especially loved the boarding school books, and desperately wanted to go to one myself.
Instead, I found this book, and eagerly devoured it the same way I read Blyton's books in the 80's.

I found this book fascinating to read, full of facts and insights that surprised me. As a child, I was unaware of the controversy surrounding the books, and I shared none of the critical views. To me they were amazing stories, and I was one of the loyal readers.

I highly recommend this book to both Blyton fans and critics, for its balanced and fair portrayal of a real Enid Blyton, a flawed person, molded by her environment, upbringing, education, experiences and parents. The book title says it all, this is The Real Enid Blyton.
Let her be who she was, and celebrate her achievements as a writer who inspired millions of kids to read.

NetGalley, katarina ortmann

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this and read it in one sitting. As a lifelong Blyton fan, whose works contributed more towards me becoming a child bookworm than any other writer, this biography was not only interesting and informative, was a delicious, indulgent journey of nostalgia.

The tone of this book was really well balanced relating to all the controversy surrounding Blyton's personality and writing. I felt that Cohen attempts to write honestly about an imperfect woman whose love of childhood and sadness in her own youth created a flawed adult. But it also led to her astonishingly prolific and so beloved collection of escapist children's tales.

I particularly appreciated the author's handling of the literary criticism Blyton's writing has faced, whilst explaining clearly the arguments against the quality of her work you can sense the affection Cohen has herself for her books and she stays firm in the indisputable love children have always had for her stories. Who are adults to say what literary quality children should read anyway? Reading is reading is reading. I truly believe that enjoyment of reading in children transcends and snobbish literary impositions adults feel that misguidedly need to make.

But I digress. I thoroughly enjoyed this dip into Enid's world and continue to enjoy her legacy along with millions of others. A recommended read for anyone else who is a Blyton fan.

NetGalley, Melanie Caldicott

It was very insightful into the life of Enid Blyton. A good read whether you're a fan of her books or not.

NetGalley, @history_girl_reading Lucy Hampton

Enid Blyton's stories were a firm fixture of my childhood, so when I saw this biography , I knew I had to request it. My mum made it her personal mission to track down as many from Blyton's extensive catalogue as possible, in hardback no less. She would scourer several stores and markets trying to find me copies so I would have complete sets. One of my biggest reading regrets is not holding on to those books into my adult life.

The book details Blyton's history, both personally and professionally. Not knowing any details about one of my favourite authors as a child, it was a riveting read to learn more about her, her family and her work.

NetGalley, Sara Oyston

Recommended for particularly engaged fans of the author's work, as well as biography and memoir readers. It would also be a good choice for public library acquisition.

NetGalley, Annie Buchanan

I was curious about this author as I read a lot about her. It's an interesting portrait of a contradictory and intriguing woman who was able to sell herself and hide the real woman.
Interesting.
Recommended.

NetGalley, Anna Maria Giacomasso

Enid Blyton was definitely the author that got me into reading and she introduced me to some amazing books too. From a very young age when my mum used to read me bedtime stories, through to The Famous Five series and my all time favourite series, Malory Towers - I loved them all and still have some of my original copies today!!
Apparently though, Enid Blyton was not a very nice person and in this book the author takes us right from the beginning and straight to the end of Enid’s life and everything in between.
A very interesting life story……

NetGalley, Emma Grocott

I was pleased to see this offered as an ARC on NetGalley because, like millions of others, I loved reading Enid’s books and still do. Granted I stick to the fairy tales, the Faraway Tree series being my favourite, but I was never interested in the ‘real life’ books. It’s true her writing was quite simplistic but her imagination was enchanting. It is sad that Enid wasn’t as warm and friendly as her books would suggest but this book spanned her life and told unflinching truths. There were a couple of eyebrow raising moments in this but on a whole I think it was well written and complete. I recommend it to any Blyton fan or anyone interested in popular children’s authors.

NetGalley, Deborah Cochrane

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Enid was a complex and immature woman who was plagued by insecurities and haunted by a dark past. She was prone to bursts of furious temper, yet was a shrewd businesswoman years ahead of her time. She may not have been particularly likeable, and her stories infuriatingly unimaginative, but she left a vast literary legacy to generations of children.


I give the Real Enid Blyton five out of five stars!


Happy Reading!

NetGalley, Michelle Kidwell

As featured in

Choice Magazine

My absolute all time favourite author from childhood - I remember being devastated in the 80s when I learned that she had died whilst being thrilled last year at seeing her typewriter in the Seven Stories children’s book museum.

This isn’t just a biography - it includes anecdotes and viewpoints from other parties at the times mentioned. Of course, Enid’s writing has been brought under scrutiny many times over the years but it was interesting to read that the BBC had banned her in her lifetime (she died in 1968) whilst also learning of a more recent renaissance of her work and how popular it remains today.

The facts of her career are indisputable - one of the most prolific and published children’s authors of all time. What was interesting to learn about was her childhood, including her father leaving the family home when she was young, but also about her subsequent estrangement from her mother and younger brothers. It was also telling to read the words of her daughters, leaving the reader in no doubt that whilst Enid was incredible with children that may not have included her own two. The book also details Enid’s two marriages and how any scandal was covered up at the time.

This was well worth a read - I feel I know more now about her as a person as well as an author.

NetGalley, Angela Lawman

I enjoyed this biography and found it interesting to get some insights into the life and career of a favourite childhood author, even if they weren't always positive ones!

NetGalley, Helen Skinner

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I was like many many children a huge fan of Enid Blyton's books and i have her to thank for my love of reading all through my life.
I was thrilled to be able to read this book ( my thanks to the publisher and netgalley for my copy) and felt so sad to hear about the heartache she felt as a child.
I was also shocked to realise that her whole life was nothing like the sunny picture she painted in her story's.
This book was a real eye opener, sad but at the same time a well written read.

NetGalley, Debra Gape

Growing up, I was a huge fan of Enid Blyton. The Famous Five, Secret Seven, The Mallory Towers and St. Clare's being among my favourites. I don't think there will be many children who have not read a book of some description by Enid Blyton. Unfortunately, it has been said that Enid Blyton was, allegedly, not a very nice person. She was neither loving or caring in her roles as mother and wife. Nadia Cohen takes us from birth through to Enid's death. Although a great writer of children's books, she didn't have a good relationship with her own children. This is a good portrayal of Enid Blyton's life that's well balanced and shows some of her better points.

NetGalley, Louise Wilson

I had no idea about the background of Enid Blyton’s Life so this was really interesting. There are so many books and articles online about the author but this one has clearly been thoroughly researched and written well. Overall I really enjoyed reading it, although shocking in many ways.

NetGalley, Jodi Beaver

Nadia Cohen’s biography is an engrossing read, with a wealth of information and excellent attention to the writing Blyton produced. It is the latter that really lifts this particular biography above others. Readers will enjoy a further foray into their own favourites, the picture of Blyton at work, her various homes, her pets and garden providing a backdrop to this enjoyment. A flawed woman – undoubtably, and this is not glossed over. A phenomenon in children’s publishing – again undoubtably. Cohen gives readers a picture well worth reading.

NetGalley, Robin Joyce

A treasured friend from my youth I devoured all her books.
This account of the two sides of Enid's nature, the public persona and her family life.
The ability to ignore and dismiss things she didn't like was astounding.
A peep behind the curtain that will keep you entertained.

NetGalley, Helen Wilkinson

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

What A Surprise!

Enid Blyton was my favourite author and I loved all her books when I was growing up! To be honest as a child reading her stories, they were wonderful. From a child’s prospective they took you to another world and no matter what was going on in your life made you feel happy, the perfect get away! As a child I never looked into other aspects of her stories and how today they are not politically correct.

I’m not saying what she wrote at the time was perfect and I can now see how prejudice she was but as a child, you don’t look into these aspects, you read the stories and love the adventures and I think reading her story it does come across that she never got over her father leaving and it was so easy to write books for children when her mind set was always to please the younger generation and to give them magic in reading.

I enjoyed reading about her life which was quite a surprise to me. I would never have thought her character to be the way it was but who know what people are like behind closed doors!

NetGalley, Karen Henderson

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A great insight into a fascinating person. I loved the personal details throughout and how the story flowed. A really well written account.

NetGalley, Sarah Hurley

A complex portrayal of an extremely difficult and damaged woman, The Real Enid Blyton captures just how one woman could be so captivating and magical to generations of children, and so thoughtless and almost cruel to her own.
This isn't a one-sided portrayal - Cohen examines what made Blyton this way, and it's the first time I've read about the traumas that may have shaped Blyton's behaviours. Sympathetic without ignoring the crueler details of Blyton's personality, this is a layered portrait and worth a read.

NetGalley, Luke Marlowe

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I was surprised to read her books still sell between 6-7 million copies a year, yep still that many every year.
A remarkable women, an intriguing life and a fascinating read.

NetGalley, Mark Fearn

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Before there was J.K Rowling, indeed, before even Roald Dahl, there was Enid Blyton, the most successful children's author of the 20th century.
Few writers have been as popular or as prolific. Emerging from a childhood marred by her beloved father's decision to leave her mother for another woman, Enid, born in 1897, wrote an astonishing number of books between the early 1920s until she developed dementia in the 1960s, The Famous Five, Secret Seven and Noddy series amongst them. Not everything went smoothly for her. Her first marriage failed and she has been accused of treating her own children coldly and her books have been accused of being variously racist, sexist and formulaic. This fine book tells the whole story, Big Ears, naked tennis matches, lashings of ginger beer and all.

NetGalley, Chris Hallam

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

My childhood was spent reading Enid Blyton books. When my daughter was little I insisted on reading Blytons stories to her. She was so creative and made childhood seem magical.
Nadia Cohen has put together a very comprehensive narrative of Enid’s life. From her feelings of abandonment as her child. Her loathing of her mother. Her loves and her friends. More importantly the relationship she had with her two daughters Gillian and Imogen.
A complex woman who spent hours behind the typewriter. Always answering the letters that were sent to her.
No matter what people think of the books nowadays, they were written in the way Enid saw the world. It was normal for her times. We just have to know that it’s not always appropriate today.
I really enjoyed this book and felt I knew more about the woman when I had finished it.

NetGalley, Catherine Harrold

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I was keen to learn more about my first favourite author. Of course I knew all about the accusations of racism, sexism and snobbery that had been levelled against her and her books and how unacceptable it was by today's standards but I knew very little about Enid and her influences until I read The Real Enid Blyton. What a fascinating insight it gives to this imaginative, childlike, flawed and driven woman. I would heartily recommend.

NetGalley, Julie Grace

I grew up reading Enid Blyton and it was fascinating to read about her as a person, not just as the creator of beloved children’s stories. It’s not always pretty but it is thorough. The book explores many aspects of her life and does not shy away from the darker parts.

NetGalley, Louise Gray

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This Biography is a Wonderous & Thought-Provoking Insight into the creator of The Famous 5, Noddy, St. Clares, Malory Towers & The Enchanted Lands.

NetGalley, Sophie Crane

Article: BIOGRAPHER RAPS CRITICS OF CHILDREN'S FAVE BLYTON
'People didn't care what people over 12 thought of her books'

Sunday People

As featured in

International Express 25/9/19

As seen in

Daily Express, 28th August 2019

This biography is a really fascinating read.

Read the full review here

Shiny New Books

As featured by

Evergreen, December 2018

As featured by

Antiques Diary, January/February 2019

Article: Not just lashings of ginger beer - new book reveals 'the real Enid Blyton' born in East Dulwich as featured by

Southwark News (print & online), 14/15th November 2018

Cohen’s biography of this popular, contentious children’s author is easy to read and follow, detailed and draws from a variety of sources, including from Blyton’s daughters, Gillian and Imogen Pollock.

Read the full review here

Rosemarie Cawkwell, Blogger

Having been a life-long fan of Enid Blyton’s children’s stories, I was fascinated to read more about the woman who practically invented this genre of youth fiction... If you have ever read any of Enid Blyton’s books, or want to know more about the woman behind them, this biography will be just right for you.

Lucy London War Poets

Article: 'Enid's secret lives' as featured by

Dorset Echo (print), 28th August 2018 – words by Faith Eckersall

Article: 'New Enid Blyton biography serves up lashings of dark detail' as featured by

Dorset Echo (online), 28th August 2018 – words by Diarmuid MacDonagh

Article: 'The frivolous children's book author' as featured by

Berliner Morgenpost, 28th August 2018

Article as featured by

BILD am Sonntag, 26th August 2018

Article: 'New book reveals writer's dark side' as featured by

Daily Echo (Bournemouth), 23rd August 2018 - words by Faith Eckersall

As featured in

The Irish Mail 19/8/18

As featured in

Mail on Sunday 19/8/18

About Nadia Cohen

Nadia Cohen is an entertainment journalist who has worked at a number of national newspapers and magazines including Grazia and the Daily Mail. As a show-business correspondent she covered film festivals, premieres and award ceremonies around the world. Nadia was headhunted for the launch of a new American magazine, In Touch Weekly, and spent several years living and working in New York. She now lives in London and juggles family life with writing contemporary and historical biographies.

Born on this day - Enid Blyton

11th August 1897

Enid Blyton is one of the world's best-selling authors and published over 600 tittles during her lifetime. She published her first book in 1922 and went on to create such famous series as Noddy, The Famous Five and The Secret Seven. At her peak, in the early 1950s, Blyton produced over 50 books a year.


Died on this day - Enid Blyton

28th November 1968

Enid Blyton is one of the world's best-selling authors and published over 600 tittles during her lifetime. She published her first book in 1922 and went on to create such famous series as Noddy, The Famous Five and The Secret Seven. At her peak, in the early 1950s, Blyton produced over 50 books a year.


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